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Tax season likely different for many this year because of COVID-19 pandemic

Last Updated Apr 2, 2021 at 2:07 pm PDT

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Give yourself time to understand your 2020 tax filing, says expert

With many working from home, expert says Canadians may be able to claim things they haven't been able to before

Deadline to file your taxes is April 30

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You have less than a month to file your taxes, and this year will look like no other.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant job losses, working from home, and even new benefits.

Josée Cabral with H&R Block says you will want to get familiar with what might also be included in your claims this time around, things you may not typically have to deal with in an “average” year.

“If you were sent home due to COVID, and you worked more than four consecutive weeks at home, more than half of the time, then you’re capable of claiming your electricity bill, your internet bill, your phone bill, as well as any kind of supplies that were not refunded by your employer,” explained Cabral.

Claiming certain expenses, such as those listed, can give you a bigger deduction on your taxes, adds Fatima Nanji with Yaletown Accounting.

As many people try to understand how working from home will impact their returns this year, Nanji says people at her firm have been busy.

“We’re finding that a lot of people are having trouble,” she said. “For example, if they worked from home, there’s a tax deduction for that. So a lot of people are having trouble filing on their own using that deduction.”

However, while many people may get to claim certain things they normally wouldn’t, government support programs may mean some will be owing.

“CERB was a taxable amount so a lot of people are ending up owing money on their tax return,” Cabral explained.

Confusion leading to delays

According to Cabral, H&R Block is seeing many people behind on their filings.

“About 60 per cent of Canadians have yet to file, and you’ve got to keep in mind the due date is April 30th this year,” she said. “There is no extension, so get ahead of yourself so that you don’t have to pay any kind of penalty or interest to any government.”

If you submit everything after April 30, you may incur a five per cent penalty.

H&R Block says 26 per cent of Canadian surveyed are “clueless” when it comes to this tax season and how to file, noting they rely on experts for help.

The company believes a sense of dread and confusion is likely one of the reasons behind Canadians delaying filing their taxes this year, with 34 per cent of respondents reporting feeling that way.

Meanwhile, Yaletown Accounting has seen an increase in people looking for support this year.

“Probably about 75 per cent,” said Nanji. “Every year, we are lucky to get referrals from our clients, so it is a bit of growth every year. But this year, for sure, it’s a lot more than expected.”